Thursday March 14, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- The USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program awarded a $15,000 grant to the Rich Earth Institute to conduct a second season of field trials with Jay and Janet Bailey of Fairwinds Farm.

REI is a non-profit research and demonstration organization founded in 2011 by Abe Noe-Hays and Kim Nace. Dedicated to closing the food nutrient cycle, the mission of REI is to advance and promote human manure as a resource.

In 2012, REI’s Urine Nutrient Reclamation Project recycled 600 gallons of human urine by collecting, transporting, sanitizing and applying it as fertilizer to a hay field. The project will expand this summer to 3,000 gallons of urine.

Urine contains vast quantities of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Instead of collecting nutrients for reuse as REI proposes, our current system mixes human waste with potable water and transports it to a wastewater treatment plant. Treatment plants use an energy-intensive and less-than-perfect process to extract these same elements in an attempt to lessen water pollution. They then discharge non-potable water back into rivers.

Extracting nutrient-laden urine from our wastewater stream could greatly reduce potable water consumption as well as alleviate pollution to our waterways. It will simultaneously create a source of local, inexpensive and abundant fertilizer.

REI is collaborating nationally with engineers in the sanitation industry, water quality advocates, soil scientists and microbiologists at the EPA. REI is also working with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation for permitting and regulatory purposes.

Urine is being collected for REI through informal donations from local volunteers. To participate, email info@richearthinstitute.org.

Urine can also be collected formally via waterless urinals and new source separating toilets. A demonstration model is at the REI office in Brattleboro. Tours may be arranged by calling Nace at 802-579-1857. For more information, visit www.richearthinstitute.org.